Out Our Back Door By Tom Baake
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Going in Style or In a Pup Tent, Campers Have Lots of Choices
By Tom Baake
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A visitor takes in the scenery from a viewing platform above the Illinois River at Oak Flat near Agness.

People have different definitions of camping. Some folks pitch a tent, build a campfire, maybe even bed down beneath the stars. Others sit inside an air conditioned and fully-connected RV in a landscaped park with their portable satellite dish set up to watch NASCAR and find it amusing to call and tell me about how they’re on a “camping” trip.

Yes, camping is one of those terms open to interpretation. From fancy to roughing it, we’re fortunate to offer lots of options here on the South Coast.

If there’s a downside, it’s that camping has never been so popular, and finding a place can be challenging, especially on summer weekends. Make reservations whenever possible.

Some parks still hold a few first-come, first-served campsites, but they, too, go fast.

In the old days you might say anything with wheels would count as camping. With the availability of yurts, tiny houses, rental cabins and even forest fire lookout towers, lots of fixed abodes qualify as camping these days.

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Campgrounds with full RV connections obviously cost more than dry camping out in the woods. There are even a few free campgrounds, although they often don’t offer water and other niceties.

Still, that’s all some people need -- peace and quiet, maybe a chair and a book and a beverage. Mostly it’s just nice to get away from the cellphone for a while….

Other people would be itching to get out and explore. So the ideal campground offers those options as well.

The US Forest Service (USFS) Oak Flat campground along the Illinois River near Agness and Cougar Lane is a good example of primitive yet satisfying camping. Relax in the campground, splash in the river, or check out nearby trails, some of the region’s most scenic.

Getting There

From the south end of the bridge over the Rogue River in Gold Beach, head up Jerry’s Flat Road, following signs to Agness.

About 7 miles upriver is the Port of Gold Beach’s Huntley Park, offering camping and day-use. About 10 miles upriver is USFS Lobster Creek campground and day-use area, with river access, fishing and swimming among options. The main road – now called Rogue River Rd.(USFS 33) -- continues upriver. You don’t see much of the river along here, although it’s a beautiful drive

Next landmark is USFS Quosatana campground, offering river access among the other usual amenities. The Rogue comes into view again and the road crosses a bridge over the Illinois River at its confluence with the Rogue.

Just across the bridge -- at about 28 miles -- turn right (S) on Oak Flat Rd. and proceed cautiously. Just over 3 miles up is a viewing platform of the Illinois River. Across the road is a trailhead for the Illinois River trail.

The road turns to gravel and drops down to USFS Oak Flat campground, definitely rated unimproved but with picnic tables, fire rings and vault toilets, along with river access. Some folks launch kayaks and other vessels from here to float down to the Rogue, while others cross the river to a sandy beach.

Back up near the viewing platform, take a short out-and-back hike on the first mile of the Illinois River trail. The forest here was blackened by fires but is recovering, although there are also dead snags. Keep kids and pets on the footpath as there is a lot of adjacent poison oak.

The trail rambles south, with a few uphill sections, and comes to Nancy Creek bubbling and splashing over mossy boulders. At just over 1 mile, this is logical turnaround for some folks, while others are just getting warmed up. The trail continues to destinations with such intriguing names as Buzzards Roost, Indian Flat and Indigo Creek. Get more trail details online or in guidebooks by William Sullivan, Zach Urness and others available at local libraries.

As you might deduce, depending on your definition of summer fun, there’s lots of do in the vicinity of Oak Flat  -- or not do!

(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is author of regional guidebooks.)

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